I am not restricting myself to ‘de-glam’ roles: Shivani Rajashekar
Actor Shivani Rajashekar talks about her recent release Kota Bommali PS, unlearning stereotypes, acting lessons from her father, and more
Medico-turned-actor Shivani Rajashekar made her debut in the 2021 OTT film Adbutham. She followed that up with performances in WWW, another OTT film, Shekar, and Tamil films Anbarivu and Nenjuku Needhi. Shekar was directed by her mother Jeevitha Rajashekar and had Shivani appear alongside her father, veteran actor Rajashekar. In this conversation with CE, Shivani talks about her latest film Kota Bommali PS, why she does not believe in method acting, looking at cinema beyond glamour, and more
On being approached for a remake
I got a call from Geetha Arts office. They told me that they are looking for an actress in a film that also stars Srikanth Meka and Rahul Vijay. I was also informed that the film is a remake of Martin Prakkat’s Nayattu (2021). They told me that they would ideally not want me to watch the original Malayalam film before coming for the narration. However, I still chose to watch it because the adaptation would be tweaked according to local sensibilities. Teja Narni, the director of Kota Bommali PS, was convinced to bring me on board after watching me in the Tamil film Nenjuku Needhi (2022). Funnily enough, Nenjuku Needhi itself is a remake of Anubhav Sinha’s Article 15 (2019). In both Nenjuku Needhi and Kota Bommali PS, I play a tribal girl. We began filming a week after I was narrated the script.
I was warned that the film would have its cast and crew roughing it out in the elements since it was being shot on location. They wanted me to be especially aware of this considering I am a female actor. I was far from deterred and told them in return that such challenges are more than welcome for a true actor. I am not some immobile, porcelain doll. What challenged me however was having to speak in the Srikakulam dialect. Luckily, I did not have a lot of dialogue. I was trained well for the lines I did have by an AD named Yogi. What is interesting about Kota Bommali PS is how it distances itself from cinematic stereotypes of police officers, who are characterised by an air of heroism and bravura. I had to unlearn this myself on the first day of the shoot. All I had to do that day was walk from one point to another in a police station. My gait was quickly corrected by the director and I was informed to internalise the vulnerability of a young, small-town girl in my body language. Moments like these make an actor’s journey memorable
Playing a police officer onscreen
My grandfather is a police officer, and so is my sister. My father (actor Rajashekar) has also played a police officer in many films. So, it is safe to assume that I have observed the real and reel equivalents of the profession from close quarters. I picked up a lot of things from them subconsciously.
Lessons from Rajashekar
My father does not interfere in my work but he does provide me inputs from time to time. Since I am playing a police officer in the film, he was keen that my costumes be well-fitted. The khaki uniform costume is something you cannot buy at your average shop. He has also shaped my approach towards performances. He keeps telling me that it is important to react to situations in the story as you are reacting to them naturally and not get too wound up in the performance of it all. I also stay away from intense rehearsals and method acting due to the same reason. It is important to live through your characters, not just play them. As an actor, I rely on my director’s instructions. Their perspective adds freshness to my performance, otherwise, I am just doing different combinations of things I already know.
On doing a deglamourised role
I don’t think much about this, to be honest. No matter how much you overthink, what is meant to happen will happen. This is something I learned from watching my parents’ careers, not to mention mine and my sister's (Shivathmika Rajashekar) careers. The only thing we have in our control is hard work. I am picking interesting roles that come my way, and I am working hard. Success will follow in the due course of time. Also, every director out there will look at you in a different way. You never know how a filmmaker out there is going to view any facet of you and you never know how that is going to inform their creativity and casting process. Anything we do can translate into a future opportunity. So, I am not restricting myself to ‘de-glam’ roles. I want to do commercial films, and I am waiting for a good role to come my way. We live in an era where actors are viewed beyond the lens of glamour and respected for their craft.
Working with Srikanth
I have known Srikanth garu since I was a child, he is a dear friend of my dad’s. Working with him for the first time was a wonderful experience. Despite being a seasoned actor with decades of experience, he never throws his weight around. He is a jovial, active person, whose work starts at action and ends at cut. I have never seen him instruct the director or his co-actors on what to do. Rahul and I learned the value of punctuality from him. He is also an extremely secure actor, I have never seen him take a look at his work on the monitor between shots.